Relatively small in size, Michelle Rawlings’ paintings come together as a sequence of images, much like a blog or instagram feed. Rawlings references various styles and genres of painting, adapting them to her individual scale and narrative. The realm of her visual pursuits is in large part focused on representations of young women and girls – artists, actresses and models – as well as the formal language of contemporary art. She is especially interested in analyzing the rhetoric of books on art written for young people, and the artistic fantasies of teenagers or the order of a typical classroom setting. The particular process of compressing art history or, even, its outright infantilization, executed for the purposes of elementary education or pop culture, has its reflection in the pithy forms of Rawlings’ works.
The works on show are complemented by images that are a record of the artist’s online searches: computer-generated visuals, a montage of randomly-selected images or artistically-appropriated digital patterns, such as a fabric printed with a screenshot of a monitor showing the effects of the computer’s damaged graphic card.
The material aspect of Rawlings’ works, joining the traditional workshop with contemporary frames made of colored Plexiglas or aluminum prints, also emphasizes their hybrid status. These paintings seek out their aesthetic identity through the reversal of art history’s conventions, oscillating between a digital original and its hand-produced, “artistic” replica.
As the artist describes her work: My feeling about painting is never that it would create this overwhelming impression upon a viewer, but that there is an awkwardness to it, instead. I feel like a painting is an odd, out-of-place thing. My works have a self-conscious quality that is important to me. They feel a little tentative and calculated and moody. Each painting is made entirely differently from another, making every painting feel like this strange idiosyncratic object, or artifact.
Michelle Rawlings is originally from Texas, U.S.A. She studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I. (receiving her degree in 2012). Today she lives and works in her hometown of Dallas, where she lectures on Art at Southern Methodist. She has exhibited her works at Dallas Contemporary and the Goss-Michael Foundation.